DRIVEN | Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge launches in SA, we take it for a blast in Sandton traffic

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Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge
Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge
Pritesh Ruthun
  • A short drive around the city in the XC40 P8 Recharge proves EVs are perfect daily drivers.
  • Blistering performance that will satisfy sportscar enthusiasts looking for something different.
  • Volvo claims a 400km range on a single charge, but you'll achieve around 350km.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

Earlier in March Volvo Cars South Africa hosted Wheels24 at an exclusive media event at The Leonardo in Sandton, Johannesburg, for a first-drive experience of its XC40 P8 Recharge. This is the company's first all-electric model for local 'electricheads' (is that a thing yet?), and it's powered by two high-voltage motors (one per axle). With this setup, you get 300kW of power and 660Nm of torque, thanks to a 78kWh battery pack (75kWh useable) and 400-volt system architecture.

Uniquely positioning itself to become an all-electric car company by 2030, Volvo Cars SA will be launching another derivative of the XC40 Recharge, but we can't tell you about that vehicle until 5 April. They will also introduce the C40 Recharge (think of it as a Sportback version of the XC40) in South Africa later this year. 

Volvo XC40 Recharge,Volvo, electric vehicle
Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge

More than 400km on a single charge?

We didn't get to test the 412km claimed range of the new XC40 P8 Recharge during the media event. Still, we can tell you that battery depletion in terms of percentage used has significantly improved compared to other EVs we've sampled, such as the Mini Cooper SE, BMW i3, and the Volkswagen e-Golf (although this car is not sold here). In fact, the XC40 P8 Recharge reminded us of the Jaguar I-Pace, which also manages its battery use and regeneration with precision.

During my brief stint behind the wheel around Sandton, I was amazed by how little the battery charge level fluctuated. I kept the car in B mode for the gearbox, which activates an aggressive energy recuperation system. I set the vehicle to one-pedal mode through the onboard computer (now powered by Google Android Automotive). When lifting my foot from the accelerator pedal, the XC40 P8 Recharge would slow down quickly, using the motor and the brakes depending on the situation. You can basically drive the car around the city without ever touching the brake pedal here, as the vehicle can come to a complete stop when you lift off the throttle. Of course, to ensure people behind you don't drive into the back of your vehicle, the brake lights are activated when you lift your foot from the accelerator when regenerative braking is working.

Read: Recharge your electric car without having to plug it in: Volvo tests wireless solution

According to the car, I used 24kWh per 100km, which is a bit 'thirsty' compared to Volvo's claimed figures, but I must admit that we made prodigious use of the accelerator most of the time. There's no other way to describe it other than as intoxicating and addictive as you unleash all that instant power and torque on the tarmac. It can gallop from a standstill to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds – which you'll know is sportscar territory. In case you're wondering, Volvo has limited the vehicle's top speed to 180km/h. We reckon realistically driven in the city, with one-pedal driving and some restraint when it comes to putting other hot hatches and sporty SUVs in their place; you'll get about 350km of range between battery top-ups.

Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge
Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge

What does it feel like to drive?

It feels like you're driving a regular XC40, which is excellent, and because the interior still looks like a normal car, you don't feel like you're in some kind of spaceship. Drivers can adjust the steering feel through the onboard computer, so you can firm things up if you like heavier steering. Brakes also feel good and progressive with solid bite and feedback if you have to use them. Despite the serious energy regeneration technology around the braking system, it's lovely to get in and go in the XC40 P8 Recharge as you'll immediately feel at home and comfortable from the driver's seat.

Read: A cost per km comparison: Insane fuel prices - are EVs really cheaper than ICE cars?

As mentioned, you won't want for pace and performance here. The power and torque will satisfy even the most demanding of drivers. Overtaking is a cinch thanks to a simple flick of your right foot, and once you get used to how quickly the car slows itself down, you'll be able to anticipate your braking distances accordingly. It feels great to drive and inspires confidence as a driver. 

Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge
Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge

What kind of technology does it offer?

Using the onboard Google Assistant voice-controlled multimedia system, we could easily navigate around Sandton. The system also supports your favourite applications, such as YouTube, Spotify, WhatsApp, etc. You simply interact with the system and the car by saying 'Hey Google', and you speak as you usually would as it uses natural language voice processing protocols. If you have a smart home, you can connect the car to it and turn on the lights before you get home at night, for example (or open and close intelligent garage doors using your voice). Of course, this system uses mobile data. If you buy one of these cars, it's advised to invest in a mobile data router for the vehicle until Volvo brings its digital subscriptions packages to SA that use eSim tech for network connections.

Read: Plug-in, baby! Volvo's electrifying XC60 Recharge hybrid has landed in South Africa

Overall, the driving experience is excellent and one of the best we've had so far for electric cars in South Africa. You'd expect a firm ride to accommodate the vehicle's extra weight thanks to the heavy battery pack in the floor, but they've somehow managed to tune the vehicle's ride and handling to perfection. There's just something majestic about not having an engine vibrate a car, too. It puts you in a relaxed mood behind the wheel, and you have this sense of comfort that, I'm sorry, you'll never get in a petrol or diesel vehicle.

Is it a worthwhile alternative to petrol and diesel?

Coming in at R1.2 million and only available to purchase via the My Volvo website, it's a fantastic alternative energy vehicle to consider if you can afford something at this price point. It's particularly apt for the times, too, as fuel prices rise. Unfortunately, stock challenges continue to affect this model. Still, Volvo Cars SA has promised us that it's getting more vehicles around the middle of the year to satisfy growing customer demand. You can charge its battery overnight at home, thanks to a wall box charger that will be fitted in your garage as part of the vehicle's purchase price.

Load shedding might concern you, but rest assured, if you are using this car in the city and you keep it topped up around 80%, you'll be able to easily cover a few days of travel before having to charge it fully.

When you buy one of these cars, Volvo will also give you access to a petrol-powered XC40 if you plan to drive cross-country and don't want to take a chance on electric power only just yet. You also get comprehensive insurance for the vehicle for three years included in the purchase price. The car comes with a five-year or 100 000km mechanical warranty, and the lithium-ion battery pack comes with an eight-year or 160 000km warranty.

If we had the bucks, we'd buy one of these in a heartbeat, as it has the space, pace, and grace to work as a family car or as a refreshing alternative to a performance vehicle. Stay tuned for more from our Volvo media drive event with the XC40 P8 Recharge, as well as the XC60 T8 Recharge and the XC90 T8 Recharge with new triple-layer battery technology.

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